In 2016, the city of Baltimore partnered with Bewegen Technologies to launch North America’s largest electrical-assisted cycling (or pedelec) bike sharing program. The system is located in Baltimore’s metropolitan area with over 25 stations available. Fast forward one-year later, this grand "sharing economy" experiment in America’s most dangerous city has imploded due to what the company's CEO says is a level of theft he has never experienced before.
As of today, Baltimore officials have suspended all operations of the bike fleet until October 15, 2017. According to the Baltimore Sun, the temporary shutdown is due to “thieves ripping the bicycles out at an unprecedented pace”, said Alain Ayotte, CEO of Bewegen Technologies, the Canadian manufacturer. The manufacturer of the $2.36 million Baltimore Bike Share system said his company has "never experienced the level of theft" that caused officials to announce a temporary shutdown of the program to allow additional locking devices to be installed to the bike docks.
Per Baltimore Sun,
"We don’t have this issue anywhere else, not at this level,” Ayotte said Wednesday. “Our locking system is recognized [as] very, very up to industry standard, but due to the issues that occurred in Baltimore this summer, we did add additional security.”
The bike-share program launched last fall with 200 bicycles at 20 stations and was supposed to grow to 500 bicycles at 50 stations in the spring. Instead, it has suffered so many thefts and maintenance backups that most of the bicycles are out of service. The program will close Sunday and reopen Oct. 15.
Unwittingly, some bicycle stations were placed in areas of extreme wealth inequality and high violent crime. Even though, each bicycle is outfitted with GPS, it did not deter thieves. Baltimore is suffering from a racial wealth divide according to JPM. The report highlights African Americans are 63% of the total 620k population with nearly 1/3 having a net worth of zero.
At one point, the thefts became so rampant, maintenance employees spent a majority of time searching for stolen bikes. The Department of Transportation had to apologized for misleading millennials about the true nature of the bicycle problem calling it a ‘rebalancing issue’.
In particular, a citizen named Brian Seel, wrote a Medium piece titled: “Baltimore Bike Share Only Has Four Bikes”. Recently, he rode to all 25 bike sharing docks and only found four working bikes. In the article, he explains how the ‘real problem’ is communication issues with the bike sharing company…
Mr. Steel rode to all 25 stations. In his first finding, he stopped at Baltimore City where there were no bikes, but 5 listed on the APP.
At Baltimore Visitors Center there were no bikes, but 7 listed on the APP.
In Baltimore’s financial district there were no bikes, but 6 listed on the APP.
Baltimore Bike Sharing’s twitter plays it cool….
@BmoreBikeShare any news about what's happening with the bike share bikes? are they being retrofitted to stop theft, or where are they?— Yargl Blargl (@evoinvitro) August 31, 2017
It’s a ‘manageable situation’
Know that most city bike share systems shut down for maintanance at least once a year. This is a manageable situation.— Baltimore Bike Share (@BmoreBikeShare) September 13, 2017
The last one is hilarious: “This is not unusual”…..
Most city bike share systems shut down at least once a year for general maintenance. This is not unusual. We feel ya though.— Baltimore Bike Share (@BmoreBikeShare) September 13, 2017
Baltimore is a shrinking city with a population at a 100-year low. Officials are unwittingly throwing money at anything, such as a bike-sharing system, to attract millennials. Unfortunately, there is too much overhang in a city where 50-years of democrat-controlled leadership, in-conjunction with decades of deindustrialization. This should be a big clue to millennials that the narrative of city life continues to crack.